Series Title: Robin Hood (IMDb)
Episode: 1.1 “Will You Tolerate This?”
Original Air Date: October 7, 2006
Length: 45 minutes
Director: John McKay
Writer: Dominic Minghella
Lead Actors: Jonas Armstrong (Robin), Sam Troughton (Much), Richard Armitage (Guy of Gisborne), Keith Allen (Sheriff of Nottingham), Lucy Griffiths (Marian)
Content Advisory: Very light PG-13 stuff; goofy action, some suggestive dialogue
Spoiler-free Synopsis: “Robin returns home from The Crusades and discovers the oppression of the new Sheriff of Nottingham. He sees Marian again, to whom he had been betrothed before he chose to leave for the Crusades.”
Reason for Watching: My cousin lent me Season 1 so I decided to give it a go.
Episode Re-watchability: Minor, I suppose. It’s fast-paced and reasonably fun, though not particularly clever.
Recommendation: Fun episode that makes clear that you should not take this show seriously. Not brilliant, but fairly well-made and fun.

Key Thoughts

When the title zoomed onscreen to the exaggerated sound of arrows hitting a target, I realized just how proudly the BBC’s Robin Hood wears its camp on its Lincoln-green sleeves. This realization prepared me so I could laugh when, in later instances, Robin shows off his “Saracen” recurved bow (actually a modernized version of a Hun bow, but nevermind), fires two arrows at once to split some hangman’s ropes (a modest homage to Carey Elwes, perhaps?), and gets saved by a pointy hairpin thrown with deadly precision at a range of many yards by Marian. Historical accuracy and realistic physics are thus ignored, and I have no great hopes for the legend being strictly adhered to either.

The actors all seem capable and possessing of comedic talent, although I notice that not only are all the male heroes young (which makes sense for Robin and his outlaws), but they all seem to have the same lean, rather short body build. This, combined with their acting styles, makes them all seem like rowdy college boys rather than young men who are trying to find their place in the world.

Robin himself is good enough. He’s a bit more serious than his mates, but not without a roguish side or a touch of emotional depth. Much (in other versions called “the Miller”) is the comic relief, filling, at this point at least, the role of Robin’s best friend and former manservant during the Crusades. Allan A Dale looks like he’ll be a fun rogue when he joins the group proper, and Will Scarlet, while young and idolizing Robin, has a chance of developing a measure of maturity, if the writers so decide.

At this stage, I’m not too thrilled about Marian. She’s cold and haughty towards Robin, despite apparently being his childhood crush, and despite him clearly being a pretty cool and morally upright person who doesn’t think twice about standing up to corrupt and powerful officials for the good of his own people. She does save Robin’s life with the above-mentioned hairpin-dart, but otherwise is an annoyance for her self-perceived and nonexistent superiority.


On the villain’s side, we have a typical, but not unwelcome, campy, beard-stroking, evil-chuckling Sheriff of Nottingham, but the real standout is Guy of Gisborne. He has been managing Robin’s lands while the hero is away on the Crusades, and has been managing them at the behest of the Sheriff, oppressing and over-taxing the people as medieval villains do. But when Robin returns to assume control of Locksley, Gisborne acknowledges Robin’s lordship and backs out. Not happily, mind you, but he does, despite having a troop of armed men nearby. The evil Sheriff quite naturally berates him for letting go of the lands so easily, but Gisborne seems reluctant to so flagrantly break the laws protecting a noble’s rights to his own land. Even if that noble is an annoying do-gooder who can’t keep his mouth shut like Robin. Whether this comes from respect for the law, for noble status, or from cowardice, I do not yet know, but I am intrigued at the possibility that a shadow of integrity lies within Gisborne’s grim, brutal façade.

What little I had heard about this series had not enticed me to give it a chance, but now that I’ve seen Episode 1 I think I can have some fun with it, at least for awhile.

10 thoughts on “TV Show Review: BBC’s Robin Hood Episode 1.1 “Will You Tolerate This?”

  1. I have a soft spot for this series. You’re right, it does deviate from the original legends, but it’s fun and campy. I would say that as the story continues, Marian’s character evolves, although I never like her as much as I want.
    The best character, in my humble opinion, of the whole series is Guy of Gisbourne. Richard Armitage really makes the best of a silly show, and his character transforms from evil henchman to Robin’s foil.
    I haven’t watched the third season because I heard that it just went crazy with the source material, but I probably will at some point.

    1. Even my cousin, who lent me Season 1, said not to bother with the other seasons because they got really bad. This is definitely not my preferred take on the Robin Hood legend and it lacks the wit and charm of Doctor Who, but yeah, it’s silly and I kind of like that.

      What’s odd is that, because (as yet at least) there is no magic and thus no reason to call this show fantasy, I had to categorize it as “historical adventure.” Even though there’s probably less historicity than fantasy in it! +) Oh well.

  2. Thanks for the review. I have had some reservations about the show because some friends who had seen it said that it was terrible, but your comments make me want to reconsider. I feel like if I know what to expect, like campy humor in a show that doesn’t take itself seriously, than most of its flaws don’t feel so egregious. One of my favorite shows like that is BBC’s Merlin.

    1. Thanks for the comment! What I keep hearing is that from Season 2 on, it does get terrible, but my cousin assured me that as pure entertainment Season 1 is fun. Knowing that did help me to enjoy it.

      The Merlin show has also given me pause, though I haven’t heard if it’s bad like Robin Hood gets to be. It’s good, you say?

  3. It is completely ridiculous. But in a fun way. You do have to throw history out of the window. And fashion. And common sense.

    My room mate made me watch all three seasons, but it was not until season three that it made me actually frustrated. But then, Richard Armitage makes everything better.

  4. I think this show is good in its own right. I’ve gotten a few laughs and a friend of mine is a Jonas fan. She even traveled from NY to Scotland for some Fan Club thing just so she could meet him. I have to admit I haven’t followed the series. I tried but life seemed to get in the way too much. However, that is not the case with Merlin. I am addicted to that show and can’t wait for the new series to start. Hopefully, I’ll be able to stream from BBC when the show enters it’s 4th season later this year. If not, I’ll have to wait until the SyFy channel picks it up again the early part of next year. It, too, incorporates humor into the action but the stories, cinematography and characters are compelling, fresh and fun. I can’t wait.

    Great post!

  5. Robin looks waaay too young to have been in the Crusades! But speaking of the youth of the band, either the writer or the director of _Robin of Sherwood_ says in an interview that it makes sense for Robin’s band to be young men–revolutionaries usually are. But you’re right, they do look like a bunch of college guys. The men in RoS look more rough, like they’ve been actually living hard out in the woods.

    I see Merlin has been mentioned. I’m not sure what you’d think of it; I mean, if you like BBC Robin Hood, you might enjoy it. But it’s not true to the legend at all; even I, who am am pretty ignorant when it comes to Arthurian legend (to my shame) can tell you that! And I don’t think I could watch many episodes in succession: the general plot lines can be described as “Evil sorcerer/enchantress comes to Camelot and tries to kill Arthur. Merlin tries to use magic to save Arthur, but makes things worse. Arthur is about to die anyway, but Merlin figures out how to save the day just in the nick of time.” It’s actually part of the fun to predict all the trouble Merlin gets himself into. But his character is genuine and sweet. Arthur is a bit of a snob, but good-hearted, though he’s always blaming Merlin for something (fairly comically, of course). The characters are fun, but not deep.

    1. They always seem to make Arthur a snob, or stupid, or somehow not very competent, don’t they? Well maybe not always — Clive Owen actually made a highly competent and commanding Arthur in the otherwise painful 2003 movie (though it does have its fun moments, and is decent popcorn fare if you ignore the Arthurian stuff). But I can’t think of many adaptations where Arthur is believable as one of the greatest legendary kings of all time. Sutcliff comes closest with Artos in Sword at Sunset, I think. Other adaptations always seem to focus on the people around him.

      I’d be willing to give Merlin a small chance, but it’s not sounding promising. The Arthurian legends have always struck me as more serious than Robin Hood; with Robin Hood I can accept more deviations from history/legend if the story retains a certain sense of adventure and fun.

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